Today we learned of a casualty of COVID-19, and while it was one that truly gutted us, we know we’re not alone in mourning the loss of Adam Schlesinger, who died at age 52 from complications of the virus.
Born in New York City on Halloween 1967, Adam Schlesinger grew up in Manhattan and Montclair, New Jersey, went to Montclair High School, and then got a Bachelor of Arts from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. That’s where he met Chris Collingwood for the first time.
No, the Schlesinger / Collingwood friendship didn’t immediately lead to the formation of Fountains of Wayne, but they did play together in a few bands while in college. At the conclusion of their academic career together, Collingwood went off to form the Mercy Buckets, while Schlesinger formed Ivy, but in the mid-1990s they joined forces – along with Jody Porter and Brian Young – and named themselves after a lawn ornament store in Wayne, New Jersey. Lo and behold, Fountains of Wayne were born! Their self-titled 1996 album found some airplay with the single “Radiation Vibe,” and their 1999 sophomore release, UTOPIA PARKWAY, got some attention with its first single, “Red Dragon Tattoo.”
But Schlesinger was never one to limit himself to a single project at any given moment. Between the first two Fountains of Wayne albums, in addition to Ivy continuing its own path, Adam was also writing songs for other outlets, penning the title track for the classic 1996 comedy That Thing You Do! In 2003, however, Fountains of Wayne released WELCOME INTERSTATE MANAGERS, best known for spawning the band’s biggest hit, “Stacy’s Mom.” While the band’s subsequent albums failed to match the success of this one, 2007’s TRAFFIC AND WEATHER and 2011’s SKY FULL OF HOLES are both pretty awesome in their own right.
While there wasn’t much chance that we ever would’ve seen another Fountains of Wayne album, due to the difficulty in putting together SKY FULL OF HOLES, Schlesinger’s dance card had already been filled to the brim with work even before that LP. In 2008, he and David Javerbaum earned Tony nominations – Best Musical and Best Original Score – for writing the musical Cry-Baby, and the following year they earned an Emmy nomination for “Much Worse Things,” one of eight songs the duo penned for A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All. They didn’t win the Emmy that year, but they did end up winning the Grammy for Best Comedy Album, which – as consolation prizes go – ain’t half bad. Plus, in 2012, they did win an Emmy for writing Neil Patrick Harris’s opening number for the 65th Tony Awards, “It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore.” And then there’s the nominations he got for Sesame Street, and the ones he got for My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend... Oh, and then he won one for the latter series in 2019 with “Antidepressants Are So Not a Big Deal.”
Ah, but lest we forget, he had a major, major hand in one of Rhino’s most acclaimed efforts of the past few years: The Monkees’ GOOD TIMES! Schlesinger produced the album, played on the album, and wrote a couple of tracks for the album, and it went so well that he returned to the producer’s chair to work on their subsequent holiday album, CHRISTMAS PARTY. Even the most optimistic Monkees fan couldn’t have guessed just how wonderful an effort Schlesinger would help put together. It wasn’t just a comeback album, it was an instant classic that was – without question – the best thing the band had released since the ‘60s.
Adam Schlesinger was a great guy, a great collaborator, and one of the best songwriters of his generation. He left us far too soon, but at least he left us with a lot of wonderful music that will stand the test of time.
Goodbye, Adam, and thanks for the GOOD TIMES!